The Nelson Pediment is a Coade stone memorial set in a triangular architrave in the King William Courtyard of the Old Royal Naval College.
The Immortality of Nelson tympanum designed by artist Benjamin West, who also produced the famous painting of the same name, was commissioned by Greenwich Hospital.
West’s original pen and ink design for the pediment is in the National Maritime Museum’s collection, although not on show. They do, however, have the famous painting of the same name, on which the pediment design is based, on show in the Nelson gallery at the National Maritime Museum.
Artist Benjamin West was the President of the Royal Academy from 1792 to 1805 and then again from 1806 to his death in 1820.
According to Mrs Coade’s Stone by Alison Kelly, it took Benjamin West and Coade employee Joseph Panzetta three years to make the monument. “West received £1000 and Coade & Sealy received £2,584,” notes the book.
The pediment, restored in 2012 by the Greenwich Foundation, can be viewed from within King William Court adjacent to the Painted Hall. It can also be seen from the window in the Nelson Room at the rear of the Painted Hall.
The alto-relievo sculpture was completed in October 1812, seven years after the death of Nelson.
An eight-page pamphlet was produced about the monument entitled: “Description of the Grand Model of Neptune Giving Up the Body of Nelson, with the Dominion of the Sea Into the Arms of Britannia, Executed from a Design of Benjamin West, Esq. for Greenwich Hospital, at Coade and Sealy’s Ornamental Stone Manufactory, Lambeth”.
Newspaper report following the monument’s completion
Nelson and Benjamin West
“I hope I die in the next battle” – Nelson’s words to Benjamin in this “curious anecdote” from the newspaper archives.
Newspaper clippings are from the British Newspaper Archive.
[With thanks to Anthony Cross at Warwick Leadlay for assistance]